After working hard and playing by the rules, working people should be able to retire with dignity and security. This is a fundamental part of the American Dream. But the Wall Street-induced housing crisis and stock market crash jeopardized this dream for countless public and private sector workers.
SEIU is promoting three basic policies towards making sure this happens. The first is protecting Social Security by eliminating the cap on taxes for the wealthy, which would extend the funding for the program for many years to come. The second and third parts of the plan deals with private and public pensions:
Our efforts to help deliver retirement security to all include exploring new models for private sector retirement plans that allow workers to set aside wages through a vehicle that provides guaranteed retirement income, as well as strengthening the rules for existing multi-employer and single-employer defined benefit funds to protect their participants.
Recent attacks on public pensions and subsequent statewide pension "reforms" jeopardize the retirement security of millions of teachers, police officers, bus drivers, nurses and other public sector workers, many of whom do not receive Social Security. We are committed to addressing this issue with comprehensive solutions. In the last two years alone, public employee unions have negotiated pension solutions that have saved the taxpayers nearly $600 million in California. Our efforts include safeguarding against all forms of cheating or abuse, and ensuring everybody pays their fair share, and all pension fund trustees, staff and service providers adhere to the highest ethical and fiduciary standards, devoid of conflicts of interest.
SEIU also issued a fact sheet that takes on a number of the right-wing myths that are being spread in an attempt to build support for cutting public pensions. The key points:
Seven out of 10 public employee pensions are less than $30,000 a year, making them anything but lavish.
Taxpayers pay little to no part of these pensions, which are funded by employee contributions and investment returns.
Public pensions have survived for 70 years with no problem and only had any problems because of the financial crash, most of them are starting to return to their earlier strength.
Public employees have shown a strong willingness to negotiate to improve pension systems and to work with governments to make through during tough economic times.
Massive cuts to public employee pensions will not benefit the economy much or solve state budget crisis, but will be massively destructive to working families.
There is no correlation between states that have underfunded pensions and the level of unionization among state workers -- unions are not driving the problems we see with pension funding.
Working America, an affiliate organization of the AFL-CIO, is taking action against Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and his cuts to public education. Corbett has significantly reduced the education budget, while giving away money to his corporate cronies:
Corbett and his allies sold the cuts as “fiscal responsibility” and “shared sacrifice” – tough decisions he needed to make to balance the budget. But the sacrifice is very much felt on one side: $860 million cut from public education last year, and deep cuts to everything from services for the disabled to unemployment insurance.
Meanwhile, with whom are students, teachers, the disabled, and the working poor “sharing” these sacrifices? The Delaware tax loophole, which allows Pennsylvania corporations to pay taxes in nearby Delaware, caused the Commonwealth to lose $493 million – money that could be invested in schools support the most vulnerable. That loophole has remained untouched by the Corbett Administration, as have other corporate giveaways.
Working America gathered stories of the pain Corbett's cuts have caused, including stories like this one from LaTonya Greene, mother and waitress:
This state budget has crushed education in PA, and we can’t afford for that to happen again this year. My six year-old son was in full-day kindergarten last school year, and he learned a lot. My daughter is in kindergarten now, but it was cut to half-day due to the budget cuts. She’s not learning, and I’m afraid she may have to repeat it.
My two year-old son entered an early childhood education program in September, but because of state budget cuts, it closed in November. To make things worse, some after-school programs here have been cut as well.
The government claims the state broke, but many corporations and gas companies here are getting richer, and not paying taxes. This is being done at the expense of our children’s education.
We need to make sure that our politicians know that we value education and want to see it funded in the state budget. Our elected officials need to put our kids over corporate profits, and finally require corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
(CBS News) FRANKSVILLE, Wis. - In directing what appeared to be a new level of vitriol toward Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum on Sunday described his rival as "the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama." Santorum later, however, bristled at the notion that he was referring to anything other than Romney's position on health care.
After a rally at the South Hills Country Club here, Santorum asked Republicans to "pick any other Republican in the country" than GOP presidential front-runner Romney, based on issues that make the former Massachusetts governor "uniquely disqualified" to run against Obama.
Reporters swarmed him for clarification, only to have Santorum testily reply that it was unreasonable to take his comment outside the context of health care.
"I would say, as for, on the issue of health care, yes, that's what I was talking about - Obamacare, as you heard me say," he said. "That's what I said. I didn't say anything different than that. That's exactly what I said."
Minutes later, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times followed up with a question about his outburst, to which Santorum asked, "What speech did you listen to? Stop lying."
Pressed further, Santorum clarified that he meant Romney was the worst candidate "to run against Barack Obama on the issue of health care, because he fashioned the blueprint. I've been saying it in every speech. Quit distorting our words. If I see it [in print], it's bullshit. C'mon man, what are you doing?"
Never a good sign when a candidate starts firing expletives at reporters with the television cameras in full view. Santorum has been in politics for twenty years and knows better than this. The pressure of a campaign on it's death march (lack of interest, coupled with running on financial fumes) seems to have finally gotten to him.
Two Goldman Sachs "clients" take a look at themselves after Greg Smith's New York Times op-ed in this musical puppet number. A parody of the Oscar-winning song "Man or Muppet" rewritten by author and law professor Frank Partnoy.
NEW statistics show an ever-more-startling divergence between the fortunes of the wealthy and everybody else — and the desperate need to address this wrenching problem. Even in a country that sometimes seems inured to income inequality, these takeaways are truly stunning.
In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households.
Still more astonishing was the extent to which the super rich got rich faster than the merely rich. In 2010, 37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent, a teaspoon-size collection of about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent.
The bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The top 1 percent, whose average income is $1,019,089, had an 11.6 percent increase in income.
A comparison between the Clinton era (Remember all the jobs, the prosperity...*sigh.*), the Bush "recovery," *cough* and today is even more sobering:
As a result, the top 1 percent has done progressively better in each economic recovery of the past two decades. In the Clinton era expansion, 45 percent of the total income gains went to the top 1 percent; in the Bush recovery, the figure was 65 percent; now it is 93 percent.
The Wall Street executive continues by blasting House Republicans and their "unsavory stew" of highly regressive tax cuts, and large, unspecified reductions in discretionary spending. The GOP just isn't catching on.
The video above shows the UC Berkeley protest on Nov.9, 2011 with campus police beating students back with batons.
The assistant police chief tasked with reviewing campus police actions during the November 9, 2011 protest at UC Berkeley wrote that "Some of these findings will be controversial," in his 50-page report to the UC Berkeley police chief. Critical of the administration, he found that the police should have been allowed to use pepper spray on the protesting students.
Outraged protesters are calling the report a "a tactical handbook for warfare against students."
Berkeley's Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, traveling in Asia that day, had prohibited the use of pepper spray. That ban proved prescient, as Birgeneau later noted, because UC Davis officers were captured on video weeks later using the chemical irritant to coat seated protesters, prompting outrage around the world. Reviews of UC Davis police actions are pending.
In the Berkeley report released Friday, Young said that police acted properly in every way: in removing the tents, in their preparedness, in their training. He had several recommendations, including that police prepare formations out of view of protesters, to better take them by surprise.
He lamented, however, that "force options" for police were limited on Nov. 9.
Referring to pepper spray, he wrote: "A few focused applications on the crowd that blocked the officers near the row of bushes would likely have cleared that area very quickly, with few additional baton strikes."
Perhaps because this is the campus police reviewing themselves explains the outrageous conclusion that during this absolutely peaceful protest police should have been allowed to use both pepper spray and the batons to beat students. If this is considered standard procedure on our nation's university campuses, it's a wonder that we haven't yet seen more Kent State-like situations. Is it only a matter of time?
To see the full review of UC Berkeley police actions, click here.
The following video shows the police response to the student protest at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 with pepper spray being used liberally on seated students.
Over 1,000 people rallied and marched to Entergy HQ in Brattleboro, Vermont on Thursday. Additionally, two solidarity actions took place in other locations, Entergy Nuclear's Northeast office as well as Entergy's corporate office in New Orleans.
Some marched on stilts, while others painted their faces and carried signs that read "hell no, we won't glow," while others chanted "Shut it down!"
The Vermont Legislature voted in 2010 not allow the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility to operate for 20 years beyond the expiration of its original 40-year license, which expires in March of 2012. However, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the plant a 20-year license extension.
Vermont is the only state in the U.S. whose legislature has granted itself the authority to approve or reject the continued operation of a nuclear reactor. So what happens here will be precedent-setting for the nation.
A 93-year-old anti-nuclear activist was among more than 130 protesters arrested at the corporate headquarters of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant on the first day of the plant’s operation after the expiration of its 40-year license.
Frances Crowe, of Northampton, Mass., said she wants Vermont Yankee to cease operations because she feels it’s a threat to the people who live nearby.
“As I was walking down, all I could think of was Fukushima and the suffering of all the people, and I don’t want that to happen to New England,” Crowe said, referring to the Japanese nuclear reactor damaged last year after an earthquake and tsunami.
When asked how many times she’d been arrested, she answered: “Not enough.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin was sympathetic to the protesters, “I am very supportive of the peaceful protesters gathered today in Brattleboro to express their — and my — frustration that this aging plant remains open after its agreed-upon license has expired."
Supporters of the nuclear power plant stood across the street watching, with signs that read “VT4VY” were posted on the lawn. One Brattleboro supporter said that he didn't think people understood the "benefit" of nuclear power, and that the protesters just aren't looking at the big picture.
Brattleboro is also known as one of two Vermont towns that approved a measure that would instruct police to arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for "crimes against our Constitution" in 2008.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speaks with Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan, and Meghan Maurus, McMillan's attorney and mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
McMillan suffered a seizure when New York City police officers pulled her from the crowd and arrested her as hundreds attempted to re-occupy Zuccotti Park on Saturday, to mark sixth months since the launch of the movement. In her first television interview since her arrest, McMillan says she has decided to speak out because of an outpouring of public support. "I have received so many emails, Twitter messages and phone calls. People are just horrified about what happened to me." McMillan has a black eye and her body is covered in bruises, at least one in the shape of a handprint. She says she was not allowed to contact an attorney while she was taken to the hospital and transferred to a jail cell along with some of the 72 other detained protesters. Facing charges of police assault and obstructing governmental administration, she was released Monday after a judge denied a request that her bail be set at $20,000. McMillan is northeast regional organizer for Young Democratic Socialists of America, and a graduate student at the New School for Social Research.
More video of McMillan's arrest and treatment while she was suffering a seizure during Saturday's police brutality: